Pilgrims Ways


Santiago de CompostelaEver since the year 813, when the tomb of St.James was claimed to be (re-)discovered there, the city of Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain has attracted many thousands of Christian pilgrims from all parts of Europe, particularly in the Middle Ages. As a result, there is no single route or trail. Of course, it all depends on where you start your pilgrimage.

Almost every West European country has an association, society or confraternity dedicated to pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, often carrying the name of the apostle involved: St.James, known by numerous translations such as Sint Jacob, Sint Jakobus, Saint-Jacques, Sankt Jakob, Sant Iago, etc. These organisations all provide information on the pilgrimage to their members, and also issue an official internationally recognized ‘pilgrim pass'. Having collected the correct stamps en route, pass-holders are entitled to the official ‘Compostela' certificate to prove that the pilgrimage was accomplished as intended.

Four routes in France traditionally start from Paris, Le Puy, Vézelay and Arles. After crossing the Pyrenees they all join into one rather clearly defined route across the northwest of Spain. Symbol of the Santiago de Compostela Pilgrim Way(s) is a scallop shell, also used for waymarking the route (yellow scallop shell against a blue background).


Classic route

The classic Way of St. James is the Camino Francés. The three main Ways in France - Via Podiensis, Via Lemovicensis, Via Turonensis - come together in the Pyrenees and cross the mountains near Roncesvaux. Hence, the Camino Francés turns straight west over the plains of northern Spain to Santiago de Compostela, a walk of about a month.The fourth main Way from France - Via Tolosana - crosses the Pyrenees at Col du Somport, follows the Camino Aragonés in Spain, and joins the Camino Francés in Puente la Reina.

  • Camino Francés, Roncesvalles / Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port - Puente la Reina - Santiago de Compostela, 800 km, 32 days
  • Camino Aragonés, Col du Somport - Puente la Reina, 200 km, 8 days

Northern routes

You can imagine that the Camino Francés gets pretty crowded! Luckily, many alternatives have been developed over the years, some with historical relevance, others also a little bit for the pleasure of hiking:

From England

Pilgrims from England can cross by boat to La Coruña or Ferrol and walk on to Santiago:

  • Camino Inglés, Ferrol - Santiago de Compostela, 110 km, 5 days / La Coruña - Santiago de Compostela, 75 km, 3 days

From Portugal

And coming from Portugal, you can follow the Atlantic coast:

From Catalunya

If you rather prefer a totally different approach, you can start in eastern Spain, Catalunya. There is even an option by crossing the Pyrenees in the far east, Le Perthus:

Mediterranean coast

Going down the Mediterranean coast, we meet new posibilities, starting in the province of Valencia for example:


Becoming more popular, are the Ways that start in the south of Spain, long and hot and feasting on the Reconquista


France has been quick in developing the modern pilgrim routes to Santiago de Compostela. Four main Ways have been laid out, based on historical relevance. These Ways pass numerous churches and other religious monuments dedicated to the mediaeval pilgrimage to Santiago, and this alone makes France a splendid pilgrimage destination. Moreover, pilgrims from Europe had to cross the Pyrenees and to have lengthy wanderings through France if they wanted to visit the holy grave of St. Jacob.

Via Turonensis

Let’s start with these four main Ways. The westernmost is the Via Turonensis, leaving from Paris, passing Tours ending in Ostabat in the Pyrenees. In modern France this is the GR655. In Spain, this Way continues as Camino Francés. Below are the main and side itineraries:

Via Lemovicencis

Next, parallel to the previous Way, is the Via Lemovicencis, popular for pilgrims from northern Europe. The modern version is the GR654, but be aware that this GR takes a different route from the official pilgrims way. Both routes are, in terms of landscape, more interesting than the first Way over Paris.

Via Podiensis

The third main route, and like the previous one a pretty route too, is the Way over Le Puy-en-Velay, the Via Podiensis. This has been dubbed the GR65. This important Way was and is used by pilgrims from the south and central Europe, from Hungary to Poland.

Via Tolosana

The fourth main Way is the Via Tolosana, bringing pilgrims from Italy, and connecting to the other important pilgrim destination, Rome. Traveling via Toulouse, these pilgrims cross the Pyrenees at the Col du Somport. The state name is GR653.

New Ways

Modern times and modern devotion asks for new horizons. So, we are not done with mentioning the four main Ways. New ways have been developed over the last years.

  • Voie Littorale, Pointe de Grave (Gironde) - Bayonne / Irun, 370 km, 15 days


Belgium has a dense network of pilgrim ways. They run north-south, and bring pilgrims from Holland, Flanders and Wallonia to France. The Belgian Ways of Saint James connect to the Via Turonensis over Paris and the Via Lemovicensis over Vézelay. There are five main clusters of trails.


One of the main routes is the central-west route connecting the west of the Netherlands to the Via Turonensis, GR655.


The second important route runs parallel to the Via Brabantica, connecting ‘s-Hertogenbosch in the Netherlands to Namur in Belgium. This route connects to Vézelay, the Via Lemovicensis.


Between these two main vines of the Way of Saint James in Belgium, several shortcuts are available so that if you change your mind, and turn to Paris instead of Vézelay, or vice versa.

  • Via Thiérache, Olloy-sur-Viroin - Saint-Quentin, 120 km, 5 days
  • GR126, Brussels - Namur - Membre-sur-Semois, 224 km, 9 days


The third route is probably the most popular one for Dutch Pilgrims, not because it is the shortest, but rather because it is a nice one to walk. It connects the Pelgrimspad to the Vézalay route, the GR654.


Then we should mention a coastal route from the Netherlands, entering Belgium at Sluis. This route is bending east and connects to the Via Turonensis.

  • Via Brugensis, Sluis (nl) - Brugge (be) - Sebourg (fr), 150 km, 6 days
  • Via Scaldea, Sluis (nl) - Gent (be) - Pecq, 67 km 3 days
  • GR122, Sebourg - St Fergueux


And finally, a nice route is being developed in the Ardennes.

  • Via Arduinna, Aken / Luik / Malmedy - Orval, 220 km, 9 days


The Netherlands is a country of hiking fervents, so it is not surprising that there are quite a number of pilgrim ways crisscrossing the country. One will clearly observe a difference between those trails that are meant to please the senses, and those that are meant to call upon as many churches as possible. The latter are recognisable by their fancy mediaeval names starting with “Jacobsweg”.

Due to the country’s geographical location, there are two obvious directions to Santiago de Compostela: one over Paris (Via Turonensis) and one over Vézelay (Via Lemovicensis). Since the latter is far more popular, most Dutch pilgrims follow Ways to Limburg, the southeastern corner bordering Belgium and Germany.

Coastal Way to Paris

Let’s start with the option over Paris along the coast. Starting in Wieringen or in Den Oever, the pilgrims head for Haarlem.

From Haarlem, the path continues south more or less along the coast. In Schipluiden is a bifurcation: one way goes east to Antwerpen,the other continues south. Continuing south, there is a second split in Vlissingen. One way goes to Brugge in Belgium, the other to Gent in Belgium.

In Belgium, continue the pilgrimage on the Via Brugensis (over Brugge), Via Scaldea (over Gent), or Via Brabantica (over Antwerpen).

Main Way to Paris

The other pilgrim way to Paris has historic roots. The start is in the north of the country, either in the village Sint-Jacobiparochie or in the town Uithuizen. These Ways head for the village Hasselt. Then the route continues to Utrecht, Breda and Antwerpen in Belgium.

In Belgium, continue on the Via Brabantica.

There is an alternative: the GR12 connects Amsterdam to Paris. The Dutch part of the GR12 is called the Floris V-Pad.

  • Floris V-pad, LAW1-3, Amsterdam - Bergen op Zoom, 245 km, 10 days
  • GR12, Amsterdam - Paris, 977 km, 40 days

Main Way to Vézelay

Two Ways connect the busy west of the country to the province of Limburg and Vézelay. The Pelgrimspad is primarily a trail for walkers enjoying the countryside. The Jacobsweg Amstelredam is primarily a trail for pilgrims enjoying cities and cathedrals.

From Maastricht, continue your pilgrimage on the Via Mosana to Namur. A second option is to leave the Netherlands in the little town of Thorn and follow the Via Limburgica.

Eastern Way to Vézelay

Things get a bit complicated here. The same paths in the north of the Netherlands that are used to go to Paris, are also frequented by pilgrims heading for Vézelay. Hasselt has the key to this mystery: the village is a main intersection of pilgrim ways.

From Hasselt, continue on the Jacobsweg Nieumeghen. Halfway, in the old city Doesburg, pilgrims from Oldenzaal will join you. This part of the Way is more or less the same as the Hanzestedenpad.

In Nijmegen one can continue south. But the real pilgrim will make a large detour to ‘s-Hertogenbosch, an important religious center of the Netherlands. The direct Way to Vézelay heads for Maastricht and Liège, Belgium. This route is sometimes on German territory, sometimes on Dutch territory, and even sometimes on Belgian territory.

From Maastricht, continue on the Via Mosana. Or - alternatively - follow the Via Limburgica starting from Thorn.


In Switzerland, the route follows ...



Pilgrims Ways North

Pilgrims Ways Mid

Pilgrims Ways South West



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  • Nirvanaa 2013-03-05 21:43:09
  • Camino de Santiago de Bruxelles à Vézelay via Namur vous connaissez?
  • Bonjour,

    Au printemps dernier j'ai parcouru le camino Norte, camino Primitivo et camino de Fisterra...une magnifique aventure d'environ 1000 km qui traverse le nord de l'Espagne, d'Est en Ouest en longeant la côte atlantique et en passant par les montagnes des Asturies.
    Avec un groupe d'amis j'envisage de parcourir et découvrir cette année les chemins de Saint Jacques en Belgique au départ de Bruxelles via Namur...Quelqu'un a - t-il une expérience de ce chemin?Merci dans ce cas de bien vouloir me contacter svp....
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